Major step in preserving Old YMCA now completePublished 7:22pm Saturday, July 20, 2013
By Sarah Mahan
The Selma Times-Journal
Through the hard work of the Selma-Dallas County Historic Preservation Society and other local leaders, stabilization work has been completed on Selma’s Old YMCA, located on Broad Street.
Due to renovations completed last week, the building, which holds the title of the oldest standing YMCA in the Southeast, is no longer threatened by the possibility of demolition.
Jewell Williamson, president of the Selma-Dallas County Historic Preservation Society, said the society felt it had no choice but to keep the building from being erased from Selma’s downtown.
“We took on the task of purchasing the property because it is the oldest YMCA in the Southeast. [This] allowed Selma to keep a historic treasure,” Williamson said. “Without the building, not only would the community lose an historical place, but the streetscape of downtown would be totally changed — it’s directly across from Selma City Hall. We felt that we had to take action.”
Nancy Bennett, a board member and former president of the historical preservation, said the society’s goal was to prevent the building from becoming even more dilapidated.
“We stabilized the building to prevent further deterioration. Our plans were never to put the façade back, but we hoped to save it from being demolished,” Bennett said. “There are a lot of things that still need to be done, but it now has a new roof, all the walls are stabilized, and someone can walk through without feeling like they are going to fall into the basement.”
Bennett said efforts are being made to continue renovations on the Old YMCA, with hopes of giving the building a new name and new purpose.
“We have entered into an agreement with the city to apply for a grant to put apartments throughout the building to provide an income stream for the it — and hopefully generate interest in the it,” she said. “The history society’s place is not to own the building forever.”
And it’s not only the historical society that is pleased with the building’s renovations, Buddy Swift of Swift Drug Company, located next to the Old YMCA, said he hopes the renovations will continue.
“We are certainly glad the stabilization work is completed. It was inconvenient to have parking spaces missing from our storefront, but [having it brought up to code] makes everyone here feel safer,” Swift said. “We hope someone comes and continues to fix it up and make something out of it.”
Greg Bjelke, who represents Ward 3 on the Selma CIty Council — where the building is located — expressed what many society members also felt should be the next step for the building.
“The hope now is to receive funds to continue work on it. We are so happy that it is dry and secure. Hopefully, someone will be interested in buying it and doing something good with it,” Bjelke said. “I want to encourage people to donate to the historic society and take an interest in the building.”